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World

Opinion: A step towards democracy - hopefully

Good riddance to Mohammed Morsi, but his ouster by the military is a dangerous setback, says DW's Rainer Sollich. The Egyptian revolution may have only just begun and the potential for violence is still great.

Deutsche Welle Rainer Sollich. Programm Afrika/Nahost, Arabische Redaktion. Foto DW/Per Henriksen 21.05.2013 #DW3_8938.

Rainer Sollich is head of DW's Arabic Service

First, it was Hosni Mubarak, now it's Mohammed Morsi. Once again, the military waited until the last minute to take the anti-Morsi protesters' side and topple an increasingly unpopular president - in this case, a president who was democratically elected, but also increasingly polarized the nation.

The outcome is as clear as it is conflicting; the military remains the decisive power in Egypt. It alone can prevent the state from collapse. At the same time, the armed forces will not show their hand to anyone. By positioning itself as a savior in times of crisis while maintaining its political dominance across all important issues, it also serves its own, economic interests.

Respect for Egyptian protest

It's not exactly democratic, but democratic culture does not seem to be high on the list of priorities in Egypt these days. Those who have been calling for Morsi to step down in a peaceful fashion in the last few days, are brave and deserve our respect.

Those who believe in a democratic and pluralistic society cannot seriously want a president like Morsi at the helm of the Arab world's most populous country. Despite his often "pragmatic" approach, one could well argue that he was gradually undermining those values and placing his supporters in key positions in the government and elsewhere.

Islam and democracy can go together just like Christianity and democracy - the protesters in Egypt have shown that they had the power to prompt the military to oust Morsi.

What is questionable though is the democratic credentials of the Muslim Brotherhood, even if we cannot tar all of them with the same brush. But we cannot overlook that too many of their members are worryingly ready to use violence.

But there is also a shocking tendency towards violence among Morsi's opponents, on the streets, but also among liberals and revolutionaries, frustrated youngsters and former Mubarak supporters.

Unfortunately, democratic culture seems to be alien to all of these groups. The fact that many are now calling for members of the Muslim Brotherhood to be politically ostracized and marginalized shows that there is no real sense of democratic procedures in Egypt.

Dangerous polarization

Morsi's ousting can only be a good thing for Egypt, it could even be an encouraging sign for the whole region that in a country so strategically important for the Arab world, people can take to the streets and challenge the dominance of Islamists.

But it's by no means a given. There's a dangerous divide in Egyptian society and the dire state of the economy will likely fan the flames of aggression further.

The situation is deeply ambivalent: the military action was necessary in this situation, but it can also be seen as a setback in the transition to democracy. The Egyptian revolution may have only just begun and the potential for violence is still great.